DUI checkpoint

In New Jersey, authorities have the right to put up a DUI checkpoint when there is a strong reason to check the traffic for potential DUI drivers. However, you still have personal rights, even when subject to a DUI checkpoint. Failing to pass a DUI checkpoint will result in a DUI charge against the driver. Although you must pull over and comply with the DUI checkpoint procedure, you can still maintain your rights as a citizen. Knowing what to expect at a DUI checkpoint and what rights you have can help you navigate the process with speed and ease.

DUI Checkpoint Legality

According to state law, police officers typically need probable cause before pulling a car over for a search. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that the potential damage and injury caused by driving under the influence outweigh the potential breach of privacy an unwarranted search can cause. Although that means DUI checkpoints have special permissions that overrule constitutional law, the National Highway Safety Transportation Board has issued specific guidelines that work to protect your rights.

DUI Checkpoint Guidelines

In order for a DUI checkpoint to be legal, it has to meet these criteria:

Good Reason – For the authorities to set up a sobriety checkpoint, they must submit their intention to their supervisor and be approved. There must be reasonable cause for setting up checkpoints. This can include after a sporting event or on high-risk weekends.

Non-Discrimination – When running a DUI checkpoint and issuing DUI charges, officers must have a standard and reason for stopping cars. Random stops are potentially biased and, therefore, not lawful. 

Clear Identification – A clear and obvious indication of the DUI checkpoint must be visible. The signage must be clear, authoritative, and official, reassuring drivers that this is a legal and safe stop. Officers must also be in uniform with clear identification.

Good Judgment – A checkpoint has to show good judgment. It must run for a reasonable amount of time (such as one evening, as opposed to an entire weekend) and be professional in conduct. The checkpoint procedure needs to ensure that the stop duration per vehicle is timely.

Proper Warning – Along with clear identification, a DUI checkpoint should have a clear and proper warning ahead of the stop to alert and prepare drivers.

Safety – Above all else, DUI checkpoints must ensure the safety of officers, drivers, and passengers. Safety precautions include proper lighting, warning signs, and traffic directions.

Legal Avoidance

There is no legal requirement for a driver to stay on a road that indicates a potential DUI checkpoint ahead. Many drivers prefer to avoid checkpoints because of the back-up in traffic they can cause. Getting pulled over by the police is a stressful event that can cause high anxiety in many drivers, even if they aren’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drivers are legally allowed to turn off a road that has a DUI checkpoint as long as they are following the normal laws of the road. Illegal maneuvers (such as unsanctioned U-turns) can still land you with a traffic ticket for breaking the law.

Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint

Breathalyzer Tests

The law of implied consent means that all drivers willingly agree to a breathalyzer test whenever they get behind the wheel. You can refuse a test, but the officers have a right to bring you in for a blood test instead. Refusal to submit to either is against the law. While an officer must have probable cause to pull you over in normal traffic for a DUI check, a checkpoint allows them to pull over anyone for no reason. 

DUI checkpoint
Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Answering Questions

When you’re pulled over, the officer will ask for your license, registration, and proof of insurance. They will then likely ask you a few simple questions to check your comprehension and conversation for signs of alcohol or drugs. You must provide vital information to the officer. However, you have a right to remain silent on any questions outside of basic information. 

Vehicle Search

You have a right to refuse if an officer asks to inspect your vehicle. Officers must have strong, reasonable cause to search your vehicle, such as a positive breathalyzer test. If an officer searches your vehicle without a justifiable reason, they are violating your rights, and you can seek retribution with a DUI checkpoint attorney.

DUI Checkpoint Charge

Getting a DUI charge at a checkpoint does not necessarily mean it will hold up in court. First of all, there are many ways a breathalyzer test can report a false reading. Officers must observe potentially influenced drivers for 20 minutes to ensure the breathalyzer test is accurate. The testing officer must have certification to handle it. Also, the officer must ensure proper machine calibration. Improper use of the machine can cause false results, indicating drivers have a blood alcohol content over the legal limit of .08 even when they don’t. 

Secondly, DUI checkpoints must follow the guidelines set forth by the National Highway Safety Transportation Board. A DUI charge is unlawful if the issuing checkpoint does not follow proper procedure. The DUI checkpoint must have fair and adequate warning, be run in a professional and safe manner, and be approved by the proper authorities. Failure to comply with any of the rules can drastically impact a DUI case.

DUI Charge Attorney

When coming across a DUI checkpoint, you have the legal obligation to stop when pulled over and comply with the rules. However, you still have rights that protect you and your privacy, even at a sanctioned checkpoint. If you received a DUI charge at a checkpoint but believe the test to be inaccurate or the checkpoint unlawful, contact Attorney Leon Matching today. Call today at 732-887-2479, or email him at [email protected] to schedule a consultation about your case.